Camy Tang here! I was running today and came up with this neat way to explain ebooks and DRM to people. I hope this helps some of you who are confused about the different ebook readers and types of ebook files.
Ebook files and ebook readers
So, you know there are several different ebook readers, right? Kindle, Nook, Kobo, Sony. (I’m sure there are others, but those are the ones I’m going to talk about for this article because they deal with DRM.)
Think of each ebook reader as a clothing consignment store. Each store has rules about what clothes (ebook files) they’ll accept.
The Kindle consignment store will accept .azn and .mobi ebook files, we’ll call them dresses (.azn) and skirts (.mobi).
The Nook, Kobo, and Sony consignment stores all accept .epub files, which we’ll call pants. However, Nook and Sony stores don’t accept dresses (.azn) or skirts (.mobi). Kobo, however, will accept skirts (.mobi) but not dresses (.azn).
Similarly, the Kindle consignment store doesn’t accept pants (.epub). You can’t go to the Kindle consignment store with a pair of pants (.epub), because Kindle will say they don’t accept pants.
You can’t go to a Nook consignment store with a dress (.azn) because they’ll say they don’t accept dresses.
This is why you can’t load a Kindle book you bought onto a Nook, and why you can’t load a Nookbook, or a Kobo book, or a Sony Reader book onto a Kindle.
Now, all the ereaders will accept .pdf files, which we’ll call sweaters.
DRM is a security feature attached to some .epub ebooks so that you can’t pirate them and give them away to anyone on the web (this is stealing from the author, in case you didn’t know that). (There’s DRM on .azn books, too, but since you can usually only read .azn books on a Kindle, I’m not going to include it.)
I don’t actually understand the technical stuff in how DRM works, but for this article, we’re going to say that DRM is like the designer label on a pair of pants (.epub). A non-DRM file is like a generic pair of pants with no designer label.
Now, certain consignment stores–ebook readers–will accept generic pants and also a particular designer brand of pants. However, they won’t accept other designer brands.
So, the Nook consignment store will accept generic pants (.epub) and also Nooky Couture jeans (DRM-secured .epub).
Sony consignment store will accept generic pants and also Sony Religion jeans (DRM-secured .epub).
Kobo consignment store will accept generic pants and also Kobo Klein jeans (DRM-secured .epub).
However, each store won’t accept other designer brands. You can’t take a Sony Religion jeans (DRM-secured .epub) to the Nook consignment store, because they’ll say they can’t accept it.
This is why if you buy an ebook from, say, the Sony Reader store online, you can’t load it onto your Nook.
However, if you have a generic pair of pants (.epub) that you get from some other online store, or from Google Books, you can load that onto Nook, Sony, and Kobo readers without problems because they all accept generic brands of pants (.epub).
There are programs to strip the DRM from your ebook file–like cutting off the designer label from your Nooky Couture jeans, turning it into a generic pair of pants so you can take it to another consignment store like Kobo or Sony. However, stripping the DRM is illegal, even if you legally bought the book in the first place.
Changing a file from one form to another
There is a free program called Calibre that will take your generic pair of pants (.epub) and cut it up and resew it into a skirt (.mobi) so that you can read it on your Kindle. It can actually take any ebook file that’s not DRM protected and convert it into any other ebook file you want, but most of the time, people want to convert pants (.epub) to a file they can read on their Kindle, which would be a skirt (.mobi).
Calibre will only convert generic pants (.epub), not any designer label jeans (DRM-secured .epub). So if you bought a Nooky Couture jeans (DRM-secured .epub), Calibre won’t be able to convert it to a skirt (.mobi) that you can read on your Kindle.
Calibre won’t convert files to dresses (.azn) since .azn is DRM protected. However, since both Kobo and Kindle read .mobi files (skirts), converting a file to a skirt will work just as well.
Calibre is pretty easy to use, and if you hook up your Kindle to your computer, it will also load the converted book onto your Kindle for you if you tell it to.
Well, that’s it. I hope this is an easy way for people to understand ebook readers, ebook files, and DRM.
Camy Tang writes romance with a kick of wasabi. Out now is the fourth book in her Sushi series, Weddings and Wasabi. She is a staff worker for her church youth group, and leads one of the worship teams for Sunday service. On her blog, she ponders frivolous things like knitting, running, dogs, and Asiana. Visit her website to sign up for her quarterly newsletter.
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